State Fair Community College’s Energy Innovation Center came to ceremonial life with a flip of the switch courtesy of Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel on Monday.
The EIC - a partnership between SFCC, KCP&L, Waste Corporation of America and PPS Group - was celebrated as a “napkin idea” that eventually drew in local, statewide and national supporters in the five years since the concept of harvesting methane gas at Central Missouri Landfill and converting it to electricity was first proposed over lunch by a group of local people looking for ways to improve the community.
“It has been a long road to get to today,” Zweifel told a crowd of public officials and community leaders at the center’s landfill facility on hand for the official dedication. “You should all be proud of what you have done here today.”
Zweifel added that the EIC’s unique public-private partnership is an example of how community college’s can meet the needs of both students and the local economy.
“It is impressive, not only in the technology being utilized here, but really, in the relevance to the workforce,” Zweifel said. “The work happening here is an example of how community colleges can be pragmatic but also inspiring … providing the needed skills to advance while encouraging instructors and students alike to continue to improve themselves and the communities around them.”
District 51 State Rep. Dean Dohrman said he was part of a post-inauguration lunch called in 2009 by Robert and Meg Liston, (which also included then Pettis County Presiding Commissioner Rusty Khars, Stu Steinmetz, and Lee and Linda Neely) that met at the Ivory Grille in February 2009 to discuss ways to take advantage of federal and state funding in the wake of a souring economy. Dohrhman told attendees the project went through a number of variations before settling on the idea of a working renewable energy facility that would incorporate training and curriculum for SFCC students while also providing incubator space for new energy technologies.
“People needed to have some positive influences so we asked ourselves ‘What can we do that would be positive for the community,” Dohrman said. You see the results today. I really don’t see a limit to (the project).”
Along the way the project picked up a wide array of public and private support, both material and financial, landing financial assistance from Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
Now completed, the EIC is capable of converting methane gas produced as a a byproduct of the breakdown of material at the landfill into as much as 2.4 megawatts of electricity that will be used to supplement SFCC energy needs, with any surplus energy being sold back to KCP&L.
The center also provides classrooms and other hands-on resources for students in SFCC’s biomass, wind and solar renewable energy programs.
SFCC President Joanna Anderson joined Zweifel in celebrating the public-private partnership as the future for community colleges, and said she believes the EIC will benefit students, manufacturing and the local and state economies.
“This center brings together people, power and potential for a greener tomorrow,” Anderson said. “Today we celebrate one way that State Fair Community College is working to sustain our world through renewable education and waste-to-energy production,” Anderson said.